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How To Trim and Shape a Goatee

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I recently wrote an article on growing a beard. Here is how to trim a goatee.

While these days I find myself more focused on stuff pertaining to having a full beard, I did spend a lot of time sporting a goatee on my face (in various trimmed lengths) before I went for the whole enchilada. Frankly, that may be the route you yourself end up going as well. Perhaps you don’t like a full beard, or are having some issues getting the sides to fill in as you like. Whatever the reason, having a goatee is a solid route to go. If you do that, you will want to think about how you are going to keep that facial hair looking sharp.

Figuring out a shape

Shape is one of those things you probably do not think too much about until you actually get in to growing a goatee. Just as you can figure out how far down towards your Adam’s Apple to let hair grow (more on that in a bit), you can also adjust how far out on to your jawbone the goatee will actually extend.

One of the things I never realized until I got in front of some angled mirrors was that, at least for my facial structure, the line that I saw looking straight on at my face was not the same as what I saw from the sides. In other words, if I had straight vertical line when I looked head-on, it would actually angle out some when viewed from the side. Conversely, if I had a straight line down when viewed from the side, it would angle inwards when viewed from the front. Now, everyone’s facial structure is not the same as mine, but that is something to think about.

If you’re feeling really ambitious, use a washable marker and draw those lines, and see how it looks from some different angles. Just double-check that it’s washable!

Along with figuring out how you generally want the shape of your goatee to be in relation to your chin, you also need to figure out how far it should grow down your chin towards your neck. From the reading I have done on the subject, and then my experience with trimming my own goatee and beard, I have found that what amounts to a two- to three-finger gap between your Adam’s Apple and your beard is a good rule of thumb.

To measure this, simply place your hand under your chin, so your fingers are going from left to right. When you can fit at least two fingers between your Adam’s Apple and the beard, you should be good to go. Once you have more experience with the trimming, you will not even need this method of measurement – you will just know what looks and feels right.

For the hair coming down from your chin, you have yet another decision to make! That is, are you going to keep things nice and tidy, in-line with the rest of the facial hair, or are you going to let it grow longer? I am not suggesting everyone needs to go for some ZZ Top-style lengths, but letting it grow longer is something many play around with (myself included).

That said, even when I do have it growing longer, I still trim immediately behind it (so, under my chin) a bit more, to avoid what my barber calls the “billy goat look”. Again, it’s largely down to a matter of preference, but it’s something else to think about.

Ok, So How Do I Actually Shape It?

So, that’s, what, three decisions to think about on how to trim a goatee? Not too bad, all told. That leaves one big question, then – how, exactly are you supposed to shape and trim it?

The first thing you want to do is use a fine-toothed comb to brush it down.  This will free up any tangles you may have, and will free up any wild hairs that are going to be sticking out, as you want to ensure you take care of them.  Now, on to the actual shaping and trimming.

An electric trimmer is the obvious answer, but before I get to that, I want to point out something you likely already have in your dopp kit – your razor. Yes, that’s right, your razor. Be it a straight, safety, or cartridge razor, you will get the tightest, sharpest definition from that blade. For instance, when I had my goatee, I would shave right up against the sides of the hair.

Sure, sometimes I might nick a stray hair or two from it, but it gave me an incredibly well-defined line at the sides and underneath. This is something that holds true whether you have a closely-cropped goat, or are growing something a bit bushier.

That takes care of how to trim a goatee edging, what about the main portion? For that, I cannot help but to recommend the ever-handy electric trimmer. I have had a relatively inexpensive cordless one in my kit for over a decade (well, I am on my second one, but still the same model) that has been handy.

You will want to look for one that offers an adjustable length comb on it, as this will allow you to dial in the precise length that you are looking for. When it comes to that, I recommend that you start off with the comb set out a notch or two longer than you think you want it, as it is easy enough to take a second pass to remove more should it be too long. If you cut too much off right away, well, the only solution for that is patience, and letting it grow back out.

What About The ‘Stache?

When it comes to the length of the mustache, this should be – at a minimum – the same length as your beard, or shorter. Never longer, as that just looks odd. This is another way that electric trimmer with the adjustable comb comes in handy.

For me, I knew what number to set mine at to get the chin length where I wanted, and then up on the lip (which was usually a number or two lower). If you are growing things longer, do ensure that you put a tight edge on your mustache as well. Here again, the clipper (without a comb) can be used to easily get a clean line, with the edge of the mustache following your lip.

Alternatively, you could use a good pair of barber scissors to get this tight line as well.

Frankly, you could use the scissors for most all of the shaping, but that is a relatively new tool in my dopp kit, so I cannot speak to it that well.

Own your goatee

However you decide to grow and shape your goatee, just remember – it is your goatee, so make it your own, and have it fit to your own sense of style. Whatever you end up growing, you will invariably get people questioning why you are doing it, or why it looks the way it does. Be comfortable in your own skin (and hair), and grow what you want. The caveat there, of course, is that we should still work to keep things looking somewhat neat and tidy. While Red Green may have settled for just being handy, I think we can all aim for having our women find us handsome as well.

Do you have a tip or trick about how to trim a goatee?  Leave a comment below!

Patrick Kansa

Patrick Kansa

6 thoughts on “How To Trim and Shape a Goatee”

    1. That’s really, truly, up to you. If you’re in doubt, start with a longer length guide, trim with it, and evaluate. If it still feels a touch too long, then go to the next shorter. Repeat until you find the length (and therefore, number of the guide you use) you like.

  1. I have found that an electric trimmer with a depth-click comb on it (similar to what barbers use) is indispensible for trimming a goatee (or full beard) to the desired depth. I have worn three out over the years. The Norelco/Philips I have at present is rechargeable, runs a long time on a charge, and came with two depth combs, a nose/ear trimmer head and a small foil shaving head. You’ll want to use the depth comb to trim the length of the hair; set it at a particular number (e.g. 3) and get a uniform length over the entire goatee. Take off the comb and use the clipper head to get in close around your nose, mouth, ‘stache, etc.
    I’ve had Remingtons, also. They were nice in that they ran on AA batteries.

    1. I’ve worn a beard most of my life, and for the past 10-15 years it has been a goatee. Well, technically, it is closer to a Van Dyke, Circle Beard, Goatee/Mustache combo (similar to the picture from the article’s author), etc. And, like you, Ted, I’ve been through my share of trimmers. The rechargeable Phillips Norelco with the attached, adjustable guide (and a vacuum so hair doesn’t get in the sink), is one of my favorites. I hear great things about the Wahl Peanut, but I’m done with detachable guides as I typically lose them. I’m in the market for a new one, so I’d love to get some recommendations. For the record, I still have a corded professional Wahl, but I prefer to use something a bit more light and portable.
      Anyway, for me, keeping the shape of my beard while shaving is effortless. Perhaps I’m just lucky enough to have picked a shape that complements my face and is very easy to maintain. I know, years ago with a full-ish beard, I had a shape that required a bit too much precision–a bit like a Franco Harris beard. Any mistake took major work to cover up. I got rid of that in a hurry. Why purposefully bring that much fuss into your life?
      And, in keeping with the theme, growing the author’s kind of beard, helps to eliminate many a man’s trouble spots: the chin and under the nose. This leads me to The Dean’s guide to effortless shaving:
      Shave in the shower
      Face lather
      Use a cream/soap that lathers easily
      Cover trouble spots with a beard
      Pick a shape that is easy to maintain (while still complementing your face)
      Of course I’m not saying this is for everyone, but it works for me. Now I just need to find a nice dry spot in the shower to install a small shelf to hold my after shave cocktail!

      1. That’s a very good point, picking out a shape that works for your face, which also makes maintenance all that much easier!

    2. Sounds like you and I have a similar rechargeable setup for the trimmer, though I do have a pair of scissors in the mix now as well.

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